Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online

A Certain Shade Of Green

September 19, 2010

It seems as though green has permeated every orifice of the commercial cleaning industry.

Once a buzzword that showed the forward-thinking prowess of sustainable companies, green has become commonplace and almost expected in our marketplace.

Those still lingering in the days of yester with traditional cleaning chemicals, equipment and process are quickly becoming the minority.

As more studies surface touting the numerous benefits a green program — be it hard floor care, carpet care, odor control, etc. — can bring to a facility and its occupants, the less ground naysayers have to stand on.

Moreover, as various facilities, municipalities and states increasingly require less toxic, environmentally friendly cleaning, it is imperative that green aspects be implemented into service offerings.

As frequently as notions of green and environmentally preferable are tossed around, some are still unsure what exactly they entail.

Luckily for all of us, the necessary information is just a question and a few clicks away.

Question:

I am starting a commercial cleaning company and I''m considering whether I should clean with traditional products and use green cleaning products only when asked by my customers.

Or, should I use green products even if the customer does not ask for them?

How do you know if a product is truly "green" or not?

Any light you could shed on this convoluted subject would be greatly appreciated.

Answer:

We hear a lot of discussion and see quite a bit of movement these days towards the adoption of some degree of green cleaning in all types and sizes of facilities.

Government, schools and health care are the first facilities to embrace green cleaning, but offices, industrial plants, hotels and other locations are also expressing interest and beginning to experiment with green processes.

When most people speak of green cleaning, they are referring to the use of chemicals that are less hazardous to cleaning workers, building occupants and the environment.

These are usually products that contain fewer or no petroleum-derived base materials and use safer or less toxic, naturally-derived chemicals that are often byproducts of soy, corn, citrus or other seeds or trees.

In a broader sense, there is much more to true green cleaning than the chemicals used to clean a surface or facility.

Other areas that need to be considered when implementing a green cleaning program include: Energy use and conservation; sustainable purchasing, building and remodeling; waste reduction, reusing and recycling; prevention; and products and services.

More specifically, when we talk about cleaning, we must not overlook the realities of doing the work, which means taking a hard look at cleaning processes, frequencies, procedures and equipment, along with product and process effectiveness, ease of use, cost, life cycle analysis, training and return on investment (ROI).

Although often overlooked, all of these issues have an impact on and contribute to creating and maintaining a healthy, comfortable and productive indoor environment.

This is not as difficult as some might think, but it does require a little extra thought and action on everyone''s part.

Green is a popular catchphrase today in many industries, and even though it is often misinterpreted and only half-heartedly applied to cleaning in most locations, it is a step in the right direction

Over time, green will become the standard of practice and norm in nearly all facilities.

Being that hard floor care accounts for a large part of most cleaning budgets, it only makes sense to include floor care in the implementation of a comprehensive green cleaning program.

The bottom line is that if the cleaning workers and supervisors don''t like the products or processes and support the transition, your green cleaning program is doomed to fail.


The International Custodial Advisors Network Inc. (ICAN) is a non-profit association comprised of industry consultants with a wide range of expertise in building management, indoor environmental and service disciplines. This network provides free janitorial and building maintenance consultation service to the industry through the Cleaning Management Institute®.